October 20, 2014

Steps Down the Evolutionary Road | Periodicals Price Survey 2014

The birth of the World Wide Web 25 years ago was the big bang event that spurred more change in the serials and scholarly publishing world than seen in the century that preceded it. Since that time, we have rapidly evolved from the print world to that of e-journals, e-journal packages, and open access (OA). But in the serials ecosystem, as in nature, not all things evolve at the same rate, and the cumulative impact of subtle steps can bring about profound change over time.

Despite some notable events, such as the purchase of Mendeley by Elsevier, the sale of Springer to BC Partners, and the launch of SCOAP 3, there was no major disruption in the serials world during 2013.

Not fully recovered

The overall economic news appears positive, but if the broad figures are closely scrutinized, public funding and spending in libraries have not yet recovered to 2008 levels adjusted for inflation or population growth. According to reports from the National Association of State Budget Officers, overall state spending decreased in 2012 for the first time in the 26 years that this group has been gathering budget data. Overall in 2013 and 2014, total general fund expenditures for all states will exceed the prerecession high of $687 billion, with spending in 2013 reported as $696 billion and spending in 2014 projected to be $722 billion. However, if these figures are adjusted for U.S. population growth, 304 million to 316 million, and inflation, which averaged 1.6% per year, current spending still falls well below 2008 levels. Funding for K-12 education has seen some relief, as a total of $8.8 billion was added to state budgets in 2014, and higher education also saw a healthy increase of $3.6 billion, but these increases also do not bring budgets up to the prerecession level of 2008 spending.

Table 1: Average 2014 Price
for Scientific Disciplines

Discipline Average Price Per Title
Chemistry $4,215
Physics 3,870
Engineering 2,785
Biology 2,520
Astronomy 2,234
Food Science 2,069
Geology 2,031
Botany 1,938
Technology 1,876
Math & Computer Science 1,750
Zoology 1,746
Heath Sciences 1,479
Agriculture 1,422
General Science 1,370
Geography 1,308
SOURCE: LJ PERIODICALS PRICE SURVEY 2014

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reinforces this budget picture in its report on academic libraries, which was released in February. Between 2008 and 2012, total expenditures for information resources increased from $2.7 billion to $2.8 billion. This represents a 4.8% increase. When adjusted for inflation by the Consumer Price Index (CPI), or by serials inflation, or for growth in student enrollment (about 10% from 19.1 million to over 21 million) this increase does not bring spending up to prerecession levels. There is some good news for private colleges and universities, however, as Inside Higher Ed reported that endowments increased 12% in 2013. Nonetheless, if deferred maintenance and deferred capital improvement projects are considered, then funding for libraries is well short of recovery. In the current environment, the continued increases in serials costs add to budget pressures.

Parsing the prices

As it has for the past 20 years, with the exception of Table 3, this price survey uses the standard, retail print price for the titles in the indexes widely used in the United States. Print pricing is featured whenever possible for consistency because not all publishers make their online-only pricing available. The index does contain some pricing for print plus online and online-only, but simply if those were the rates offered.

Average prices for science, technology, and medical (STM) serials (Table 1) remain the highest, compared with prices for serials in other subject areas. Chemistry has historically seen the highest average serials prices, and that has not changed. Recent reports show that the average price for chemistry journals hovers around $4,215 annually. There were only slight shifts in the overall average prices for serials broken down by subject area. There is normally a move of one or two positions, but overall there are not large changes in the relative ranks of the subject areas.

Table 2: Average 2014 Price
Per Title by Country

Country No. of ISI Titles Avg. Price Per Title
RUSSIA 47 $4,757
IRELAND 39 3,585
HUNGARY 12 3,226
AUSTRIA 26 2,944
NETHERLANDS 567 2,876
SINGAPORE 22 2,526
GERMANY 435 2,081
SWITZERLAND 86 2,027
ENGLAND 2,204 1,813
GREECE 5 1,468
NEW ZEALAND 24 1,444
UNITED STATES 2,800 1,142
CHINA 9 897
AUSTRALIA 65 661
SWEDEN 12 572
POLAND 13 543
FRANCE 121 532
JAPAN 55 519
NORWAY 16 516
CANADA 86 439
AVERAGE COST OF ALL TITLES: $1,608
SOURCE: LJ PERIODICALS PRICE SURVEY 2014

There was little change in the relative order for the average price per title sorted by country of origin (Table 2). While the average price per title increased from previous years, titles from Russia and Ireland continue to have the highest cost per title for all included in the merged ISI indexes. Hungary, Austria, the Netherlands, Singapore, Germany, Switzerland, Greece (replacing the United States in the Top 10), and England round out the top ten countries with the highest cost per title in 2014.

Titles in the combined ISI Arts and Humanities, Science Citation, and Social Sciences Citation indexes offer published rates for online formats (Table 3). As in past years, the data reflects online only, print plus free online, and the first tier of any tiered pricing, with the common element being pricing for the online format.

Elsevier, Wiley, Springer, Taylor & Francis, and SAGE continued to dominate the combined indexes with more than half of the titles; the percentage of OA titles grew from 3% in 2013 to 5.4% of titles in the 2014 combined indexes. The 2014 average cost for this set of titles is $1,340. While this increase over last year’s average price of $1,147 may seem exorbitant, it is very important to keep in mind that the individual titles in the data set and associated pricing models reflected by Table 3 change dramatically each year, so the price increase is probably owing to changes in the data and not reflective of actual price changes. What remains consistent is the relative high cost of titles by subject areas, with science and technology at the top of the chart.

The Big Deal: still a big deal

Table 3: Average 2014 Price for
Online Journals in the ISI Indexes*

Discipline Average Price Per Title
Chemistry $4,333
Physics 3,852
Astronomy 2,401
Biology 2,360
Engineering 2,140
Botany 2,085
Zoology 1,931
Health Sciences 1,544
Geology 1,537
Math & Computer Science 1,480
Technology 1,462
Food Science 1,384
General Science 1,274
Agriculture 1,157
Geography 1,035
Social Sciences 847
Education 813
Psychology 812
Military & Naval Sciences 804
Business & Economics 800
Sociology 758
Political Science 674
Anthropology 604
Recreation 602
Law 569
Library Science 496
General Works 495
Arts & Architecture 463
History 434
Philosophy & Religion 417
Language & Literature 358
Music 300
SOURCE: LJ PERIODICALS PRICE SURVEY, 2014
* Prices represent print-plus-free online, online only and the first tier of tiered pricing.

While the philosophical debate about pricing models and the quest for the ideal evaluation metrics to measure them evolves—as documented in the Association of Research Libraries’ (ARL) The State of Large-Publisher Bundles in 2012 by Karla Streib and Julia Blixrud—the Big Deal e-journal package continues to dominate academic library purchasing. In announcing its decision not to renew one of its major e-journal bundles, the California Digital Library detailed its evaluation process for packaged content, which included pricing, alignment of cost to value, and maintaining a high-quality collection across a range of disciplines. In returning to individual subscriptions to meet content needs, researchers at the University of Michigan examined the consequences of terminating a publisher bundle, including the greater use of and reliance upon aggregator databases, open access content, and increased interlibrary loan activities.

A comparison of publisher e-journal packages ordered by more than 2,800 clients of EBSCO Information Services in 2013 and 2014 revealed an average price increase of 5.19%, comparable to the 6% overall increase projected for 2014.

Print proportion falls

Driven by user demand and by technology such as discovery products, the number of individual print orders in North American libraries continues to decline. In a survey of 30 major publisher partners of EBSCO Information Services conducted in the spring of 2013, a third reported that their print orders had decreased by 5% to 10% while another third said that print orders had declined by more than 10%.

Individual subscriptions to digital replica publications have been available for some time through iTunes, Zinio, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble. The Netflix model of unlimited access to content for a fixed monthly price came to consumer and popular magazines this year with the launch of Next Issue. A joint venture of Condé Nast, Hearst, Meredith, News Corp., and Time Inc., Next Issue offers unlimited access to more than 120 titles for a flat monthly fee. While not dissimilar to the unlimited access offered by scholarly publishers through pricing tiers based upon institutional attributes, it will be interesting to see how the Next Issue model evolves.

Products such as BrowZine, which support the management of personal article collections harvested from e-journals and OA sources, have become very popular in academic libraries. As both this type of product and article level–use metrics evolve, libraries and publishers will increasingly deal with content from multiple sources converging into an information stream, as opposed to individual unit purchase models.

Periodical Prices for High School and Public Libraries

Overall price increases for titles in EBSCO Publishing’s MasterFILE Premier are expected to be in the 4% to 5% range.

Table 6: Cost History for Titles in Masterfile Premier

Masterfile Premier No. of
Titles
2012–2014
Average
Cost Per
Title 2012
Average
Cost Per
Title 2013
% of
Change
2012–2013
Average
Cost Per
Title 2014
% of
Change
2013–2014
U.S. 705 $97 $101 4.7 $105 4.4
Non-U.S. 154 249 263 5.7 275 4.4
SOURCE: LJ PERIODICALS PRICE SURVEY, 2014

Periodical Prices for University and College Libraries

Overall price increases for titles in EBSCO’s Academic Search Premier are expected to be in the 5% to 7% range for 2015.

Table 7: 2015 Cost Projections for Titles in Academic Search Premier

Academic
Search
Premier
No. of
Titles
% of
List
2014
Average Cost
per Title
% of
Cost
Projected
% of
Increase
Projected
2015 Average
Cost per Title
% of
Cost
Projected
Overall %
Increase
U.S. 1,316 40.6 $649 34.8 6.4 $691 34.8 6.2
Non U.S. 1,891 59.4 1,218 65.2 6.1 1,292 65.2
SOURCE: LJ PERIODICALS PRICE SURVEY 2014

Table 8: Cost History for Titles in Academic Search Premier

Subject Average No.
of Titles
2012-2014
% of
Change
’12–’14
Average
Cost Per
Title 2012
Average
Cost Per
Title 2013
% of
Change
2013
Average
Cost Per
Title 2014
% of
Change
2014
Agriculture 79 0 $947 $1,020 8 $1,078 6
Anthropology 30 0 393 426 9 464 9
Arts & Architecture 43 0 276 296 7 317 7
Astronomy 18 0 2,419 2,501 3 2,597 4
Biology 214 0 1,746 1,838 5 1,938 5
Botany 28 0 1,450 1,527 5 1,613 6
Business & Economics 107 0 397 421 6 444 6
Chemistry 54 0 3,566 3,769 6 3,973 5
Education 189 0 469 502 7 532 6
Engineering 193 0 1,479 1,557 5 1,658 6
Food Science 16 0 612 661 8 709 7
General Science 57 0 778 828 6 869 5
General Works 67 -1 121 127 5 132 4
Geography 58 0 715 768 7 808 5
Geology 23 0 1,118 1,181 6 1,259 7
Heath Sciences 589 1 973 1,064 9 1,139 7
History 236 2 307 323 5 343 6
Language & Literature 153 1 233 248 6 262 6
Law 118 1 295 307 4 324 5
Library Science 50 0 224 236 5 249 5
Math & Computer Science 125 1 1,366 1,425 4 1,517 6
Military & Naval Science 20 0 234 242 3 218 -10
Music 28 0 229 253 11 265 5
Philosophy & Religion 200 1 264 280 6 298 6
Physics 87 0 3,235 3,467 7 3,696 7
Political Science 67 -1 463 492 6 521 6
Psychology 88 1 719 766 6 828 8
Recreation 11 0 297 318 7 337 6
Social Sciences 29 0 323 344 6 361 5
Sociology 186 0 559 595 6 636 7
Technology 29 0 1,040 1,109 7 1,247 12
Zoology 53 0 921 984 7 1,049 7
SOURCE: LJ PERIODICALS PRICE SURVEY 2014

Open access

Open access continues to evolve. Several major developments surfaced over the past year. As part of the bill that funded the U.S. government for 2014, Congress passed an OA mandate. Under the bill, federal agencies under the jurisdiction of the Labor, Health, and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies (LHHS) Committee that have research and development expenditures in excess of $100 million per year must develop a policy that provides for free online public access to final peer-reviewed manuscripts or published versions of funded research not later than 12 months after the official date of publication. Though the scope is limited and some argue that the embargo period is too long, this does represent progress in support of public access to the results of research funded by the U.S. government.

After several years of planning and development, SCOAP3 (Sponsoring Consortium for Open Access Publishing) went live in January; the first articles are available and the SCOAP3 Repository was launched. The business model for SCOAP3 relies upon an international partnership of libraries, funding agencies, and research centers. Journals from leading publishers in the field of high-energy physics have been converted to OA. SCOAP3 pays publishers for the costs involved in providing the journals as open access, and publishers reduce subscription fees to their customers by the amount that customers pay to SCOAP3. Fall 2013 was a busy time as SCOAP3, libraries, and publishers worked out the details of those costs. It will be interesting to see if this model is sustainable in the long term and replicated in other disciplines.

Although there are many different approaches to OA, “green” (authors deposit a copy of their work in an OA repository for free) and “gold” (authors pay processing charges to have an article published immediately and freely available to all) are the two most common designs. There has always been tension between the two models and this year was no exception, as green advocates found much to criticize. In the UK, the Finch Report was released and the Research Councils UK (RCUK) Open Access Policy adopted; both seemed to be throwing their support behind gold OA modes and shifting support from the green scheme. Most major publishers have also created gold publishing platforms and have been marketing their OA activities widely. Megajournals such as PLOS One and PeerJ are growing, with PeerJ now reporting that 28 universities have now implemented institutional plans. Gold OA seemed to be in the spotlight more frequently in 2013, and green advocates were vocal in their ­opposition.

Table 9: ISI Indexes Cost History by LC Subject

Subject Average
No. of Titles
2012-2014
Change
From
’12–’14
Average
Cost Per
Title 2012
Average
Cost Per
Title 2013
% of
Change
2012
Average
Cost Per
Title 2014
% of
Change
2013
Agriculture 185 0 $1,251 $1,343 7 $1,422 6
Anthropology 58 0 387 411 6 437 6
Arts & Architecture 130 0 291 311 7 335 8
Astronomy 34 2 1,871 2,115 13 2,234 6
Biology 631 0 2,273 2,400 6 2,520 5
Botany 69 0 1,720 1,829 6 1,938 6
Business & Economics 585 1 1,064 1,134 7 1,208 7
Chemistry 257 -1 3,860 4,046 5 4,215 4
Education 179 3 706 775 10 827 7
Engineering 447 4 2,442 2,616 7 2,785 6
Food Science 26 0 1,802 1,939 8 2,069 7
General Science 100 1 1,239 1,295 5 1,370 6
General Works 83 2 183 195 6 207 6
Geography 122 3 1,101 1,220 11 1,308 7
Geology 99 4 1,761 1,920 9 2,031 6
Health Sciences 1,411 6 1,289 1,385 7 1,479 7
History 399 0 294 314 7 334 6
Language & Literature 552 -17 269 287 7 288 0
Law 152 -3 298 313 5 335 7
Library Science 61 -1 497 520 5 551 6
Math & Computer Science 223 2 1,650 1,664 1 1,750 5
Military & Naval Science 13 0 729 762 5 761 0
Music 71 1 205 218 6 231 6
Philosophy & Religion 266 3 272 291 7 310 7
Physics 248 6 3,460 3,704 7 3,870 4
Political Science 120 0 585 624 7 663 6
Psychology 193 1 707 757 7 818 8
Recreation 36 0 490 529 8 577 9
Social Sciences 75 1 613 654 7 696 6
Sociology 365 1 706 758 7 810 7
Technology 78 3 1,668 1,775 6 1,876 6
Zoology 139 1 1,580 1,650 4 1,746 6
SOURCE: LJ PERIODICALS PRICE SURVEY 2014

The 2015 forecast

The 2015 serials marketplace will still see steady increases in prices, while the development of scholarly communications and libraries will continue to be in flux. Budget compression, price inflation, and questions of value will collide with OA trends, government mandates, new evaluation tools such as altmetrics, and the increased distribution of information offered by research platforms and social networks.

All players in the information marketplace—libraries, publishers, and vendors—will continue to be affected by changing market conditions. The 2014 6% average price increase is expected to remain stagnant for 2015, hovering in the 6% to 7% range. That 6% seems to be a level of inflation that is neither too hot for libraries nor too cold for publishers, so for the time being, 5.5% is a safe bet. However it is only April, and a lot could change before 2015 pricing is ­finalized.

Table 10: 2015 Cost Projections by Broad Subject

No. of
Titles
% of
List
2014
Cost
% of
Cost
Average
Cost
per Title
Projected
% of
Increase
Projected
2015 Cost
% of
Cost
Projected
Overall %
Increase
ARTS AND HUMANITIES CITATION INDEX
U.S. 480 31 $93,223 20 $194 5.9 $98,723 20 5.3
NON-U.S. 1,091 69 368,079 80 337 5.2 387,219 80
SOCIAL SCIENCES CITATION INDEX
U.S. 962 40 598,106 29 622 7.1 640,571 29 7.0
NON-U.S. 1,420 60 1,450,310 71 1,021 6.9 1,550,381 71
SCIENCE CITATION INDEX
U.S. 1,358 39 2,507,500 30 1,846 7.1 2,685,532 31 5.9
NON-U.S. 2,098 61 5,783,819 70 2,757 5.4 6,096,145 69
PROJECTED OVERALL INCREASE FOR ALL ISI TITLES: 6.1%
SOURCE: LJ PERIODICALS PRICE SURVEY 2014

Read “Measuring the Value of Journals” >>

Stephen Bosch is Materials Budget, Procurement, and Licensing Librarian, University of Arizona Library, Tucson, and Kittie Henderson is Vice President for Academic, Law and Public Library Markets, EBSCO Information Services, Birmingham, AL

 

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Comments

  1. I was wondering why the historical numbers change from year to year. For example, in Table 8: Cost History for Titles in Academic Search Premier, the 2013 average journal cost for Agriculture is $1020. If I go back to the 2013 report published in April 2013 (http://lj.libraryjournal.com/2013/04/publishing/the-winds-of-change-periodicals-price-survey-2013/), the average journal cost for 2013 was listed as $1119. Shouldn’t the same number appear for the historical figures? Thanks for any clarification you can provide.

    • Meredith Schwartz Meredith Schwartz says:

      The historical numbers change from year to hear because which titles are included in the index changes from year to year. The average journal cost in the 2013 report was the average cost for the titles included in the 2013 index. But the 2014 index includes different journals — so the historical number is what those different titles cost in 2013.

      Hope this helps!

      Meredith

  2. Any idea why chemistry journals are always the highest price? Is there a historical reason for this?

    • Jean-Claude Guédon says:

      I would suggest looking at the pricing behavior of the American Chemical Society, how it influenced the pricing tactics of other societies (such as the Royal CS in the UK), and, ultimately, the pricing tactics of chem journals by commercial publishers. A precise historical study of key journals and their pricing would indeed be very useful (done in constant dollars, of course, and weighted according to the number of articles published by each journal, or some similar size-dependent metric). Such a study could start in 1945 as economic circumstances were quite different before WWII and even more diferent before 1933 when several German Jewish publishers had to flee from their country. The advent of the Science Citation Index and its use to guide library purchases would also translate in more rapid price increases as the notion of an inelastic market of scientific journals began to take hold.

  3. Jean-Claude Guédon says:

    Rather than a country by country breakdown or a rather meaningless US vs non-US distinction, separating large international publishers from large societies, and from small societies, would yield results that would be more significant. Also, cost/titles are not terribly meaningful if we have no idea of the number of pages published in each case. Barschall did the right things, many years ago, when he showed how expensive Gordon and Breach was for physics (which led to an absurd, international series of lawsuits against the poor man, that lasted over a decade). And cost/titles are often used to justify Big Deals, while disregarding the degree to which each collected title is relevant to a given constituency.

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